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Months after Newtown shootings, gun debate keeps going

| Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 5:42 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Karen Gilliam of Homewood who lost her son to gun violence, joins a rally in East Liberty as part of the “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence” – a 25-state national bus tour over a period of 100 days aimed at urging America’s leaders to support background check legislation, on Friday, August 16, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Carlee Soto, 20, the sister of slain Newtown teacher Victoria Soto, speaks at a rally in East Liberty as part of the “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence” – a 25-state national bus tour over a period of 100 days aimed at urging America’s leaders to support background check legislation, on Friday, August 16, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Larry Davis, 53, of Homewood joins a rally in East Liberty as part of the “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence” – a 25-state national bus tour over a period of 100 days aimed at urging America’s leaders to support background check legislation, on Friday, August 16, 2013.

Speaking less than a half-mile from the scene of a fatal shooting on the previous night in Larimer, Carlee Soto and other gun control advocates urged lawmakers Friday to adopt universal background checks and what they called “common-sense” measures to stem violence.

“I feel like it is my responsibility to do this,” said Soto, 20, whose older sister Victoria and 26 others died in December in the mass shooting at the suburban Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A local attorney and firearms safety advocate called the rally — part of a national bus tour organized by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns — “unseemly.”

“I feel for the people who lost loved ones, but every one of these gun control rallies leads off the argument with the dead children in Newtown and then focuses on urban violence. It's camouflage and in very bad taste,” said Pittsburgh attorney Peter Georgiades, executive director of the Firearms Instruction Research and Education Institute.

Georgiades said the two examples of gun violence are “distinctly different and will require different types of solutions. They aren't going to be fixed by mayors doing tours or by laws saying you have to have a background check.”

Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, said doing nothing is not an option.

“Background checks aren't a magic wand that will solve it all, but it's a tool we can use,” said Gainey, who supports a bill in Harrisburg that would require background checks on all gun sales in Pennsylvania and another that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns within 72 hours.

Handgun sales from licensed dealers or private sellers require background checks, as do shotgun or rifle purchases from licensed dealers. Pennsylvania is among 15 states and Washington, D.C., to require checks before private handgun sales, the mayors' coalition said.

Several states are considering or have adopted tougher gun laws in recent months.

This spring, Maryland adopted a law that requires people to be fingerprinted when buying a handgun, bans hundreds of assault-style rifles, prohibits those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental facility from owning a gun and limits magazines to 10 bullets.

The mayors' coalition cited a March poll showing that 88 percent of Pennsylvanians support expanding background checks to all gun purchases. A Rasmussen Reports poll released this month showed 46 percent of American adults think stricter gun control laws are needed and 46 percent do not.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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